Outlander fans know and love Duncan Lacroix as Murtagh Fraser – godfather and loyal companion to Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). STACK asks the British actor about his time on the series…
Were you familiar with Diana Gabaldon’s novels prior to being cast as Murtagh?
No, I hadn’t read or even heard of the book series before being cast. I think most of the cast was surprised to find out how popular the book series was before we started filming. Once we realised the weight of expectation that was on the show, I think it helped galvanise a sense of responsibility in bringing the work to life.
The show is very unique while occupying an otherwise popular genre. What do you think is the secret to its success?
I’m not so sure it occupies any kind of genre either. Time travel? Historical fiction? Romance? I think it evades genre and this goes towards its success. However, I think the fact that it has such a strong female protagonist – which is still unfortunately quite rare – coupled with such a strong love story that spans both decades and centuries lends it quality that plays into most people’s fantasies. Also, I think there was such a strong story to tell, great writers and ensemble cast, amazing crew and the fact that we all gelled comes across on screen. Plus, Scotland. It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Scottish landscape.
Can you share some highlights from your tenure as Murtagh Fraser?
I get asked this question a lot and over the six years I spent playing the character, the answer keeps changing as different memories keep cropping up. So perhaps its better to say the whole thing: It was life changing for me and I’ve made friends for life, as well as having found a new home in Scotland.
Understandably, the process of creating an episode is complex, but could you give our readers some insight into what’s involved in the creative process?
We film the show in blocks which are made up of two episodes, and each block usually takes four to five weeks to shoot. From an acting standpoint we get the scripts maybe a few weeks before each block starts, and perhaps get a few rehearsals with a director before the block starts. As one block is being filmed a director will be prepping for the following block. There is so much that goes into the show in terms of design, costumes, etc, that by the time we arrive on set or location, it’s like stepping back in time ourselves. John Gary Steele and Terry Dresbach were genius in what they were able to create in terms of set design and costume.
Outlander is often graphic in its depiction of sex and violence. Is shooting this content difficult, and if so, what is the mood like on set at the time?
I only filmed a few love scenes, which were modest in comparison to some of the stuff that Sam or Caitriona did, so I can’t speak for them. The set is always very respectful, and it comes down to trust between actors and director. I was very fortunate to work with the amazing Maria Doyle Kennedy for my love scenes and we worked out what we were comfortable with beforehand. I do remember the mood on set after the rape scene of Jamie by Black Jack in season one. Myself, Steven and Grant, who played the highlanders rescuing Jamie, arrived on set after they had been filming for a week and the atmosphere was very heavy. It was stunning and brave work by Sam and Tobias and very difficult stuff to deal with.
What films and/or television shows have you been watching lately, and what would you recommend to Australians currently stuck at home during lockdown?
I’ve been hooked on the show The Boys, which is an incredibly warped take on the whole superhero genre with some extremely colourful language. Karl Urban and Antony Starr are superb in it and they’re both from New Zealand, which is just across the ditch from you guys if that helps. I also just started Criminal: UK, which I think has different versions for different countries. It’s all based in a police interrogation room and filmed in real time, which is a great compact formula that I think works brilliantly.